Nancy Pearl, in her enthusiasm for the written word, has become the world’s first rock star librarian. She’s made reading cool with her “Book Lust” series, talks, television and radio interviews. Named the 2011 Librarian of the Year by Library Journal for the impact she’s had on libraries and the publishing industry, we can’t help but ask … are there any books Nancy doesn’t love??
Valerie Easton: What books are open on your nightstand right now?
Nancy Pearl: Joseph Anton by Salman Rushdie, The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin and Alice Munro’s Dear Life.
Any book you’ve read lately that caught your imagination, or changed how you looked at the world?
A book that made me think about the past differently — or opened up the past in ways I hadn’t considered — is David Goldfields’ America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation. I grew up in the north, and what I learned about the war had so little nuance; Goldfield sets context for the war’s causes and results.
Have you read a book lately that you’d unhesitatingly recommend to friends and colleagues?
I loved We Learn Nothing: Essays and Cartoons by Tim Kreider. I found something in every essay that moved or enlightened me, or made me laugh — all equally valuable. Plus, as a bonus, it made me want to read Tristam Shandy, which nothing in a whole life of reading had inclined me to do.
You’re a fabulous cheerleader for books and reading, but surely there must be some books, authors or genres you don’t enjoy?
There are many many books I haven’t enjoyed. I’m not fond of books that have workmanlike prose. I need three-dimensional characters; I don’t need to like the characters, but I need to know them inside and out. I’m not a fan of horror fiction, and I’m not a big romance reader.
Can you give an example of what you mean by “workmanlike” prose?
In a lot of plot-driven novels, the language is there only to get you to turn the pages, which is fine, but it doesn’t sing. I started The DaVinci Code and gave up after the first paragraph. Another book I didn’t enjoy was the spy novel, Double Game by Dan Fesperman.
Is there a well-reviewed or popular book you don’t think lived up to the hype?
The new John Grisham (The Racketeer). His books always disappoint me.
So how does it feel to be an action figure?
It feels weird. No one ever thought 100,000 of those would be sold. My niece even saw one at the University library in Melbourne, Australia.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I guess it’s the opportunity to discover new books and authors. If I don’t have something to read, and two or three or four books lined up, I get extremely anxious.
Have you met an author or two that you got a big kick out of?
An interview that stuck with me is the one with Stewart O’Nan. He said the only thing he’s interested in is seeing how people get through their lives. I was blown away because that’s what I’m interested in too. And it shocked me that he goes up to his study in the morning and comes down at night and if he’s written 300 good words he’s happy. I’d like to take a writing class with him. Have you read his book Emily Alone?
What do you tend to read for your own personal enjoyment?
Sad to say, nothing I read is not, ultimately, in some way or another for work.
What were your most cherished books when you were a child?
I loved Johny Tremain by Esther Forbes, To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street by Dr. Seuss, and all the Robert Heinlein novels for kids, especially Red Planet, Between Planets and Space Cadet.
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